You’re not in Kansas anymore once college comes around. You may have managed to ace every test in high school without studying and graduate as Valedictorian, but that’s not going to happen in college. A lot of students don’t really know how to study because they’re not used to having to do it, and the important thing is that you have to figure it out fast.
In college, you don’t have many options or a lot of time to improve your grade after bombing your first test. In most classes, you have about three tests accounting for a majority of your grade and a few quizzes or homework assignments here and there. Unfortunately, you won’t always get an awesome professor who drops your lowest test grade and replaces it with your highest. Bummer.
I have listed here a few helpful academic tips that I have learned from my experience in college. These can help you get – and stay – on the right track to getting the grades you want.
Studying and Academic Tips:
- Pay attention in class. Well, first things first - go to class. If you're allowed to have a computer in class, consider not taking it. This keeps you from being tempted to check Facebook, browse Pinterest, or text behind your screen. I realize that a lot of people prefer typing notes, but writing isn't so bad. Many professors also post their lecture notes online. You'd be surprised how much easier it is to focus with just a pen and some paper.
- This kind of goes along with the last tip, but take good notes in class. Focusing and learning while in class extremely helps to take off the load later when studying for a test. Being slightly knowledgeable about the subject before going into studying is so much better than being completely in the dark. It keeps you from having to cram, and it prevents a lot of stress. Trust me.
- Read the text book as you cover the chapters in class! I can’t stress the importance of this enough. Do not wait one or two nights before a test to cram in four or five chapters of reading. It’s generally around 100 pages and is not an efficient way of studying at all. Keeping up with the reading and taking notes as you go helps a lot.
*These first 3 tips are essential and help A LOT! Make the most of your time in class and learn. Otherwise you're paying way too much money to sit in a classroom and text or check Facebook. Moving on:
- This is good for those of you who are driven crazy by complete silence. Try listening to classical music while you study. Research suggests that it helps you retain more information by improving short-term memorization. Also, listening to music without lyrics keeps you from focusing on the music; there's nothing to sing along to that will distract you from studying.
- Switch up your spot when hitting the books. Study in your room, a study lounge, the library, a coffee shop, or even outside (if the weather permits). It’s nice to change things up, but it also helps you determine whether you’re more productive at one place than the other.
- Make flash cards, even if you don’t use them. Just the act of rewriting the information can help you learn it. If you do use them, as I recommend, they are particularly helpful for learning vocabulary and formulas.
- Study in intervals of say 45 minutes or an hour – whatever works best for you. Take a 10 minute break or so in between each interval to keep yourself sane and to give your brain a break. It may even help to set an alarm on your phone to stay strict to a schedule; that way you don’t have to worry about not being disciplined enough to get back to studying.
- Introduce yourself to your professors, and try to somewhat get to know at least one of them. This is a little more important for those of you attending a large college where you will be in classes of hundreds of students. (At small colleges with classes of say 15-40 students, you’re kind of forced into knowing your professor). This is important because when you apply for scholarships or job applications while in college, you are often asked for a letter of recommendation from a professor. Don’t be surprised if a professor turns you down because they don’t know you well enough to feel comfortable writing one. More than likely, they can’t even put your face with your name. Make connections. They are vital.
*Note: Professors WANT TO HELP YOU! Especially with very large classes, people often think that professors don’t care what you do in class and how your grade ends up. A majority of the time that is not true! You can e-mail them or ask questions before and after class if needed, and they’re happy to help. Also, take advantage of their office hours. The whole point of them is to help you, but you have to make the effort to go if you’re struggling. They won’t reach out to you first.
I hope you find a few of these tips helpful and that you see your grades improve. College is a big adjustment for most people. Just remember that it’s not the end of the world if you don’t do so hot in a few classes. Don’t stress out too much over your grades, and don’t let your GPA define your intelligence (possibly much more on this later).
Best of luck!